January 31, 2005

Some deaths are more equal than others

I've seen this factoid smugly quoted or linked in a couple of places, including some guy calling himself "Instapundit":

So who's more dangerous?

USA drunks > insurgents

Number of people killed in Iraq on election day: 35 (source: The New York Times, 1/31/05)

Average number of Americans killed daily by drunk drivers: 47 (source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2003 data)

Let's leave aside for a moment how disrespectful it is to throw around numbers of deaths in different categories as if each one isn't a huge loss. Let's just look at those numbers. The above analysis completely ignores the fact that there are a hell of a lot more people in the US than in Iraq. Therefore, the per capita death rate is much worse for the Iraq election than for our average daily drunk drivers.

Estimated Iraqi population: 25,374,691
Estimated US population: 295,366,629
Estimated number of people killed in Iraq on election day, had Iraq the same population as the US and the per capita rate was the same: 407

This is an idiotic exercise. But on the whole, I'm sick of people feigning stupidity to try to score cheap argumentative points.

Posted by Carl at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

Hooray for voting

Yes, yes, there was an election in Iraq. A lot of people voted. That's all good. Did it justify the war? Hard to say. Is a pro-US faction going to be magically brought into power? Will that accurately reflect the will of the Iraqi people? You'll forgive me if I'm skeptical. Can we get our troops the hell out of their now? As if. Was all this worth the cost? Easy for smug white guys with blogs to say so, but others might disagree.

Best post I've seen on the Iraqi election: Wolcott.

Posted by Carl at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

It's poker-tastic!

Highlight of the weekend was participating in a charlity NLHE tournament at Dr. Dremo's, my once and future favorite bar. $35 buy-in, proceeds to tsunami relief, prizes for the top 10 (hotel nights in AC for the top 3, gift certs for Dremo's for the rest).

They were supposed to have 150 players, but after two hours of putzing around, mopping the floors of the pool room (all that melting snow on the roof), and messing with the tournament-tracking software, we opened with a field of 93. Yours truly did quite well early, taking out a number of players (had someone go all-in right after I flopped a flush; called another all-in with an outside straight draw and nailed it), and eventually being the last player from my original table. When we got down to 20 or so players, the cards seemed to stop coming, and I tightened up just so I'd make the final table.

Make it I did, and when the end came it was swift and stupid. I was on the big blind at 500-1000, and my total stack was 2200, so I was already half in. I had just thrown away a bunch of money on the previous hand and was feeling rather inadequate. Everyone folded except the small blind, who raised to 2000. I said "Why don't you just put another 200 up there and I'll go all-in, here." "What have you got?" he asked. "Buncha crap," I said, as I turned over the 10 and 2 of spades. "Well, I have 4-5," he said, and our exciting showdown was the source of much amusement for the rest of the table. A 4 came out, and I was done in 7th place. I got a $15 bar credit and a T-shirt for my trouble.

I was less interested in the prizes than in the opportunity to get a little practice at live action. I found "poker face" less difficult than I'd thought; just stare at the board, don't worry about it. (Of course, playing in a chumpy charity event and playing in a big-money game with someone like Phil Helmuth staring at you are two different things.) I also think it's a good idea to move swiftly and decisively; you don't have to worry about shaky hands if you just grab your chips and slap them down in a hurry.

Oddly enough, there were few memorable hands (that I was involved in, anyway). The aforementioned knock-outs were good and all, but not spectacular. Of course, the hand I remember most was one where I lost. I was on the big blind and limped in with 7-3. Two other players had called, and we all checked all the way to the river. The board was 8-8-7-5-2. The guy across the table pushed out a hefty bet, and the young woman to my right called it. She had been playing inanely all night and I gladly would have called her, but the guy had just moved to our table with a good-sized stack, and I had no read on him. I put him on an 8, or maybe a straight, so I let it go. They both turned over A-x, and was I ever pissed. Hindsight is 20/20 and all, but I should not have let myself get pushed out of that hand. That guy ended up at the final table as well and finished better than me (I didn't stay to watch the final six), and if I had taken that hand our fortunes might have been reversed.

Despite all the waiting and all the bugs in the system (e.g. a count-up at the final table that took a good 20 minutes, with no help from tournament administrators), it was a good time. They've said they'd like to make these things monthly, so hopefully after they get through a few more they'll be better-run.

Posted by Carl at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

Sorry this is so late. It's been a crazy day. So let's make it quick.

More on Jeff Thomason, the Eagles' new tight end. Good story.

Also out of Philly is a piece on the disservice modern media "objectivity" does to the American public. I am stunned to see this in a major American newspaper. Slactivist has a superb post on this as well.

Everybody knows this already, but still: Ezra Klein has moved out of the Pandagon apartment and gotten his own place.

Kevin Drum links to an interesting item: self-esteem ain't all it's been cracked up to be. I've always thought there's a time for preserving self-esteem, and there's a time to give someone a kick in the ass to help them get their crap together.

Finally, a great post at Orcinus on Hayao Miyazaki, director of great animated films. "Everything is so thin and shallow and fake," says Miyazaki. It's easy to complain about how kids these days don't get out anymore, but Miyazaki makes it profound, more than mere bitching.

Posted by Carl at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

Enjoy the view from the nosebleeds

Sources on the Nationals e-mail discussion list I joined are saying that the entire lower level of RFK has been sold to season ticket holders. Going to the Nats online season ticket purchase site, it appears to be true--you can only ask for upper deck seats. I'm scared to run queries there; I'm guessing most of the good seats are gone.

Well, CRAP. Great news for the team and the success of baseball in DC; bad news for those of use who couldn't handle full-season tickets and were holding out for an 8- or 10-game plan (and once those plans are sold, how many tickets will be left for single-game purchases)? Also, it'll crazy upsetting if the team is 20 games under .500 in August, the seats are half-empty because season-ticket holders don't bother to show, but you can't buy a damn ticket for a game at the box office. The Texas Rangers (and probably some other teams) have a system were season ticket holders can call in and have the team re-sell their seats for any given game (the team gets a cut, of course). I hope the Nats can follow suit.

I had considered forming a season ticket collective--get a bunch of people to each buy, say, 10 games of a full season package--but didn't think it would be necessary until the new ballpark was built. Guess I was wrong. If that's what it takes to get decent seats, maybe we'll set it up next year. Any Washingtoonians who would be interested in such a thing, shoot me an e-mail or drop a comment; I'd like to bounce my ideas for the structure off someone.

Posted by Carl at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

Keeping it going

Just wanted to point out Andrew Fields' latest response. Well-done and reasonable... Much to chew on. Nice to see people approaching these problems as Christians. Good stuff.

Posted by The Beehimawth at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

XRF to go

Catching up on Wired dept.: My alma mater has one of the best geology departments in the country, for which I worked as a lab assistant back in the day. Their lofty position is in no small part because they own a number of very large, very expensive machines used in analyzing rock samples; we got samples from other schools domestic and abroad, and even from NASA (these were never labeled in obvious fashion, so I could have worked on moon rocks but never known it). One of them is an X-ray fluoroscopy machine, which shoots X-rays at a sample, then analyzes the reflected energy to determine what's in it.

So I can't help but wonder if these hand-held XRF scanners are going to take a bite out of F&M's rock-scanning business. I suspect the hand-held doo-hickey's accuracy may not be as good as the machine that takes up half a room, but is it still good enough for most researchers? I have an e-mail in to one of the professors asking about it.

Posted by Carl at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

Rave down, hit the ground

What ever became of Swervedriver, anyway? I'm listening to 99th Dream right now, and I gave Raise a spin last week. Man, they were great.

Update, after bothering to Google them: busload o' Swervedriver MP3s!

Posted by Carl at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Kudos to the UCC!

Just to make sure, Andrew Fields is correct... It is important to point out the ways in which some churches are bucking the right-moving, conservative-leaning trend. Take for instance this article (thanks to TPM ) on the official website of the United Church of Christ regarding the broohaha over SpongeBob Squarepants. The UCC responds publicly, and humorously. Score one for the good guys!

Though, in the interests of being Fair and Balanced, Dobson denies that Spongebob himself was ever the target of Focus on the Family's ire. Well, I'm glad they cleared that up! Thank God they are limiting their zeal to real flesh and blood homosexuals. I feel so much better now...

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by The Beehimawth at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2005

All generalizations are false

Following on from the discussion below, I think the problem is just one of semantics. There's a thin line between a useful label and a sweeping generalization.

There's been a lot of this at Utne lately: someone makes a crack about "red states," then a liberal living in Georgia or Kansas goes "We're not all like that out here, you know?" I understand the point, but I also find the need for constant affirmation a little annoying. I live in Virginia, but when someone talks about "red staters" I know they're not talking about me personally. I don't need to have it re-affirmed all the time. I also think that if you're tired of your state being talked about as a bunch of rubes and hicks, maybe you should work at changing the political outlook of your state. (Of course, all generalizations are dangerous; substitute "black people" for "red staters" and make some other choice substitutions in this passage and you get something really offensive.)

So it goes with this discussion. In my reading, Rob uses "evangelical Christians" as shorthand for "far-right conservative Christians who oppose abortion, support the war in Iraq, think the Second Coming is imminent and the works of LaHaye and Jenkins are literal prophecy rather than fiction." (Rob is capable of providing his own definition; this is my interpretation.) Andrew says "Wait, I'm an evangelical Christian, and I didn't support the war. Here are some other evangelical Christians who didn't." Fine, then, maybe Andrew needs to provide his definition of "evangelical Christian," and we can square that up against how Rob and I interpret it. What exactly differentiates evangelical and non-evangelical Christians?

I've taken to using the term "radical Christians" to refer to those scary Rapturistas defined above and discussed often at Slacktivist. Yes, it's wrong for us heathens to let these relative few dominate the discussion, and refer to "Christians" with such a broad brush. I also think it's wrong for radical Christians to pervert the teachings of Jesus to the point that they reject all the Bible's pro-peace rhetoric in favor of two verses that say war is necessary. I think it's wrong for these people to have as much influence as they do over our government. And I think it's wrong for sane Christians to sit still, rather than repudiating the radicals as a cult. We need more statements like Andrew's, made on a bigger stage.

Posted by Carl at 11:34 AM | Comments (2)

C'mon, Jesus would DEFINITELY bomb the crap out of Tom Friedman!

In order to keep the daisy-chain of opinions going, I am going to respond to the umbrageous Andrew Fields. He has found plenty of nits to pick, and he is quite right to do so. I admit it. I was grossly simplifying and unfairly tarring an entire group of people without noting their diversity. One of the many perils of throwing up a quick post early in the morning... But his well-catalogued response seems to miss the broad (and I do want to accentuate broad) thrust of my post.

The U.S. had a chance to respond differently to 9/11. Given the alternative I sketched it seems reasonable to have expected that the Christian community (right and left, conservative and liberal) would have led the charge in articulating and arguing this alternative, or some manifestation of it. Period.

I understand that there is a rich theological tradition of how Christians deal with the application of violence by the state. My sense of that tradition, however, is that it springs from a later time in the church's history when the Christian movement went from being marginalized, to being formally vested in statecraft itself. To my mind there was, and is, a (necessary?) contradiction between the teachings of Jesus and their later interpretation by worldly governments. Moreover, as American evangelicals themselves appeal to the earliest Christians it seems they might be more interested in adhering to the message of Jesus himself, broadly conceived, rather than the theological gymnastics performed by a later church which had vested interests in legitimizing and maintaining political power. So, again, who would Jesus bomb? Nobody.

I agree that the blame should not be assigned to evangelicals solely, nor even chiefly. I recognize that there were a few voices, such as Jim Wallis, arguing the contrary view. Moreover, all of the other failings which Andrew pointed out (education, media, culture... really the whole kit and kaboodle) ought to be given due consideration. That said, however, I think that the evangelical community (again, I know, I'm grossly simplifying...) deserves to be hoisted on its own petard when it comes to the matters I wrote about. Why? Because, as they have grown in political power they have insisted that their fellow secular citizens are obligated to give weighty consideration to the religious commitments which Christians hold in a host of matters, like abortion, or the teaching of evolution, to name only two hot-button issues. Now, I think that they are right to insist on this, and that the secular side of the citizenry would be foolish to ignore or discount these appeals. But if the Christian community expects to be taken seriously when it comes to, say, matters of cosmology, or "the culture of life", or any other issue which touches upon their religious commitments, then it seems they shouldn't abandon other, equally important, religious commitments which have profound political implications.

Finally, I really do agree that the problem isn't simple, nor is it simply about the Christian community. And I do believe that religious folk have the "theological resources, the common sense, and the goodwill to act as correctives in the slippery slide away from underpinnings of a democratic society." But, exceptions like Jim Wallis, and Andrew Fields himself, aside, the face of American evangelicals is increasingly becoming identified with the Republican party. Given this trend, if evangelicals don't want to allow George W. Bush to continue to be seen as their spokesperson, then they had better move quickly and publicly to distance themselves from his political policies. But we all witnessed the election of 2004. I just do not see that happening.

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by The Beehimawth at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

From the construction site to the Super Bowl

Jeff Thomason, who has been out of football for two years, is going to the Super Bowl. Eagles' tight end Chad Lewis injured himself on the final touchdown of the conference championship and can't play. L.J. Smith will see the bulk of the Super action, and I'd actually be surprised if Thomason plays a down (barring injury to Smith). But still...his plans for the next two weeks just changed rather dramatically.

Posted by Carl at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

a most Super of Bowls

Last week a smart but not overly confident man said "the Eagles ought to win by 14." 14, 17, what's the difference? Hallelujah, Philadelphia has won the NFC Championship, and we will be spared innumarable references to the number of consecutive conference championship losses. Chad Lewis' last TD catch, with under 4 minutes to play and really sealing the deal, will be one of my fondest sporting-event memories for quite some time. I was only wondering if there would be a pitch invasion after the final gun (the Philly fans displayed remarkable restraint in not doing so).

Alas, no all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl. I am disappointed that the western half of the state couldn't hold up its end of the bargain. Still, it should be a great game, better than a lot of the sports pundits are calling for now. Yeah, the Patriots are great, and there's something to be said for going after the defending champ. But the Panthers gave them a great game last year, and (notwithstanding last year's NFC title game results) the Eagles are a better team than those Panthers, IMO. We'll get two weeks of "Will TO play?", and I think he will. His ankle looked OK yesterday as he danced on the sideline and chest-bumped McNabb.

Although it goes against every sports-fan cliche in the book, I'll still be happy with this season even if the Eagles tank in two weeks. Getting over the NFC hump, and shutting down all that "they're losers" crap (see treatment of the Atlanta Braves), is such a joyous occasion that I already consider this season a success. Winning the big game itself would be fantastic, of course, but I'm not going to sit around and mope if they don't. I may well sing a different tune in two weeks if it turns out that way, of course.

One last note: Freddie Mitchell, the self-nicknamed "People's Champion," was actually carrying a boxing/wrestling championship belt on his shoulder during the on-field post-game celebration. Yes, the same Freddie Mitchell who had one catch during the game. Too funny.

Posted by Carl at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Partly in response to Vostok's earlier post (itself a response to an earlier one of mine), and also riffing on one of Kalkan's, I'd like to take up (again) my assertion that defining the current struggle against militant Islam as a "War" is the wrong way to deal with it if we want to achieve long-term success. What follows are some rough thoughts without detail, thrown out here in more haste than I'd like, given their nature.

After 9/11 those of us who suggested that a military response would ultimately prove to be ineffective and counterproductive were roundly criticized, and shouted into submission. My own thinking at the time, and it largely remains unchanged, is that the best way for the U.S. to respond to this particular threat was by a very public and forceful show of generosity and good-will. What we needed was a Marshall Plan for Middle- and South-East Asia. This is not to say that there are no bad actors. There are people determined to inflict harm upon the U.S. who cannot be dealt with by soft measures. Given their cellular organization, and small numbers, however, our use of battlefield instruments is overly crude, and their application tends to extend societal support to the very hard-core elements we seek to eliminate.

Fatally weakening broad-based acceptance and tacit complicity for militant Islamists within Middle- and South-East Asian societies ought to be our chief goal. If the U.S. refuses to behave in those ways predicted and expected by the majority of the population among whom elements like Al Qaeda reside, such organizations will ultimately be unable to recruit new members or rely upon the low-level support of non-members. (In fact, the idea of "membership" is iteslf problematic, but that's for another post) This has both long- and short-term benefits. Robbed of recruiting tools, organizations such as Al Qaeda cannot sustain themselves over time. Furthermore, limiting broad popular acceptance hampers their ability to plan and execute operations against the U.S. or its allies in the present and near future.

It is not the case that such organizations seek to bring about death and destruction as ends in themselves. Terror is primarily about spectacle. It seeks to advance a political or social agenda through the response of the victim, not by the victim's injury or elimination. The strikes on 9/11 should not be seen as strategic goals, but rather as tactical provocations. The U.S.'s military response to these acts has extended and amplified the spectacle, and it continues unchecked as we fight in Iraq. In this way we continue the spectacle begun on 9/11, and provide propaganda for Al Qaeda in ways it could only dream about. It is for this reason that I think the "War on Terror", or the "coordination of state-based military action", to use Vostok's phrase, is a strategy that is doomed to failure.

Although the hard-core elements in Al Qaeda and similar organizations may identify themselves as soldiers for a future caliphate, we ought not dignify them with such recognition. Label them as criminals and declare a coordinated state-based police action in order to eliminate them. Doing so in the larger framework of providing aid and support to the very people upon whom they depend seems to me a long-term view with legs. This is probably politically dead, but may not have been had Bush seized the moment immediately after 9/11. We had the moral high-ground and plenty of international political capital at that time. This is not a pacifist's argument, but a practical one. For some conflicts we need the use of overpowering military force. For this situation, however, we should have looked around in the tool box a bit for a more delicate instrument. It would have been much more effective.

"... in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot." - Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State (thanks to Kevin Drum)

Finally, one of my biggest frustrations with the public atmosphere post-9/11 has been the cognitive dissonance displayed by a huge section of Bush's traditional supporters: evangelical Christians. I myself am no Christian, but I do happen to believe that one of the most amazing messages of the gospels is the real power of a peaceful response. The early Christian movement, and many of its later inheritors, recognized the efficacy of non-violent action and public expressions of goodwill, even in the face of evil intentions. And yet it seems that those who have most loudly proclaimed the benefits of a personal relationship with Christ and a strong sense of America as a "Christian Nation" have been most supportive of an overwhelmingly military response to 9/11. In doing so they have foregone one of the transcendent promises of their own faith, and have placed their hopes in the most human of emotions: fear and vengeance.

Imagine an administration using not the rhetoric of crusades and war, but rather of charity and hope. We might have engaged Islamic societies in recognition of a shared spiritual tradition, and accentuated our common ground, while rightly pointing out that Al Qaeda and its ilk are enemies of all, not simply of the West. But as soon as we articulated and embraced the "War on Terror", our chance of ever turning the table was lost. War has its own inexorable logic which becomes more and more difficult to break out of as it is pursued. As Kalkan pointed out, the Tsunami of 2004 has shown to all the power of America in exercising peace and charity. We could have been expending our resources in this way since October of 2001. We might have been focusing our time, energy and wealth on inspiring and helping to create the low-level institutions necessary for Democracy to grow, instead of fooling ourselves into thinking that it will take root from forced elections and top-down management.

Vostok has acknowledge the remarkable failure of Bush's strategy thusfar, yet he doesn't want to go so far as to claim that it was necessarily the wrong strategy. So at what point do we recognized the link between failure and bad decision-making? Unfortunately, with Bush's re-election, the American people have formally endorsed the current path, and there seems to be no chance of moving away from it in the near future. Broadly speaking, the election of 2004 was, as Bush asserted, an "accountability moment." The American people did not hold the Bush administration accountable for their many blunders, and for their fundamental misunderstanding of the threat which confronts us. In time this will rightly be understood to have been a crucial failing of American democracy. We have trained our elected leaders to understand that their bad decisions and poor strategies carry no political consequences. Perhaps it is unclear whether it was the administration's failing, or our own, but we will all pay the price for it.

Cross-posted over at Kermit's place...

Posted by The Beehimawth at 09:05 AM | Comments (2)

January 21, 2005

It'll take a LOT of change

Catching up on Wired mag department: I thought the Smart microcar was pretty keen when I saw it in Europe a couple years ago (and drove a Smart-esque Mercedes). I think it's even more keen after reading this article and learning about its steel safety cage that prevents it from being completely squashed in an accident. The coolest thing about it, though, may be this:

It has opened the world's first online dealership and sells cars out of towering glass vending machines across Europe.


Posted by Carl at 04:23 PM | Comments (2)

Linking Fool Friday

Here are some links I piled up while wondering why more people didn't link to the Iron Chef thing. C'mon, that shit is funny. Funniest thing I write in months, and the blogosphere doesn't come stampeding in. I love all six of you, but seriously, I gotta get some more readers.

Explaining the obvious: the Poor Man teaches us how to oppose torture.

Social Security? There is no crisis. Got it? (Note to the left side of Olde Blogge Town: better to link it on the words Social Security than just on "There is no crisis." It's a googlebomb, see, and people aren't going to google for "There is no crisis.")

No Child Left Behind continues to suck; good post at Slacktivist discussing the folly of Adequate Yearly Progress. Educators aren't scared of accountability; they're scared of unreasonable standards that are impossible to meet.

Good inauguration summaries from Gilliard and Wolcott. The images of an Iraqi family shot up by Americans used by Gilliard have been making the rounds, and I'm worried they're going to give me nightmares. I'm sure the wingnuts will say "It's their own fault for not stopping the car!" Whatever. We'll probably never know the whole story, if the troops shot them up before they had a chance to stop or what. In any event, better that our boys had not been there to shoot them at all. That little girl isn't cherishing freedom too much right now. (More on "freedom freedom freedom" later today.)

And to end on a lighter note, dammit this looks like a good pizza.

Posted by Carl at 10:17 AM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2005

Four more years of this crap

Last night on the channel 4 news, their annoying man-about-town reporter did a piece from a horrible pre-inaugural party, in which he kept going up to people and saying "Show me your boots!" When he threw it back to the studio, the anchorwoman asked "How are all these boots holding up against this snow?" He replied, "It's not the snow so much as the beer that's the issue."

A far better response would have been, "It's not the snow so much as the blood of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis that's the issue."

No way in hell I was coming anywhere near the inauguration this time. I went four years ago, to the protests south of the Navy memorial. The issue at the time, of course, was the Florida debacle and the theft of the election. I still have very shaky videotape of it (we had just gotten a camcorder and I didn't yet understand the importance of keeping the thing rock-solid still, plus we were walking around a lot); there's some amusing street-theater bits. However, at one point a squad of national guardsmen in riot gear came stomping into our area (despite things being not even remotely violent), and there were helicopters flying low overhead; for about 15 minutes we thought we might just get arrested. Didn't happen, but still, it was freaky. A crazy day.

Given the Bushies' track record, if we went downtown today we'd be in a "Free-Speech Zone" up around Mount Pleasant at best, thrown in jail the moment we failed to cheer for Bush most likely. Family responsibilities that didn't exist for me four years make getting arrested much less attractive. And really, I haven't heard of any protests. I'm sure there are some, but the theme is just "Bush sucks and we hate him," and we've all seen how effective that's been lately.

Bleah. I wish it HAD snowed today. Two freakin' feet.

Posted by Carl at 02:22 PM | Comments (2)

Pathetisad in the snow

It snowed here yesterday, an inch, two inches, tops. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is the blizzard of 1996, this storm ranked maybe a 2. And yet: school closings and mammoth traffic jams. The DC area's handling of snowfall has gone from laughable to just freakin' sad.

It was supposed to snow again today (about the same amount), but thank Hera, it's warmed up instead and much of yesterday's snow has melted off. More coming Saturday.

August had quite the enjoyable experience for his first area snowstorm. Welcome to DC, pal. Watch out for the wolves.

Posted by Carl at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2005

Youppi: Je Suis Quebecois!

So now they're saying Youppi will stay in Quebec, possibly surfacing with the Canadiens (if they ever play again). This runs counter to what we were told just a few months ago, that he'd be coming to Washington.

How disappointing. Sure, I'll probably get a new mascot to take a picture with, but I was looking forward to that big orange freak showing up at RFK.

Posted by Carl at 01:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2005

Why are you punting?

I haven't written much about football this year. Honestly, it's because I'm nervous. I've been bitten in the ass too often by Philadelphia sports in general and the Eagles in particular to be too excited about the playoffs. I thought the Eagles would roll this weekend against the Vikings, and they did, but I didn't have that faith of the true believer. There was just enough doubt there. Same thing for the Falcons this Sunday; the Eagles ought to win by 14. I think. But I worry.

A couple things from this weekend's games, though:

I have been a big fan of Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. While I don't agree with every single thing he says (about football or other subjects), he has noticed some significant trends in the game that entrenched football personnel just don't seem to pick up on. A big one is the "fraidy-cat punt," aka play selection in the "Maroon Zone"--too close to punt, too far to kick a field goal. So when the Vikings had a 4th-and-short just outside the Eagles' 35, I thought "Maybe they'll be fraidy-cats and punt." Punt they did, and yea verily it's in this week's TMQ (first item in "Vikings at Eagles Analysis").

SI's Dr. Z has a similar thought on coaches who play not to lose, and end up losing big games as a result. Crazy-ass Mike Martz says of his playing for overtime in last year's playoff game against the Panthers, "All I could see was a turnover, a fumble, an interception." Well, ANY offensive play could result in a turnover, a fumble, or an interception. Do you punt on first down of the first series of the game because you're scared something bad will happen? Of course not, and if you can't approach the endgame with the same mentality, you don't belong in the NFL.

A play that annoyed the crap out of me was Freddie Mitchell's lunge for the goal line in the third quarter, in which he all but flung the ball around the pylon and attempted to pass it off as a touchdown. Instead, fumble and Vikings ball. If that had been the absolute last play of the half, or 4th-and-goal, I'd forgive Freddie. But it was neither of those things, and in fact Mitchell had already made a first down. So go ahead and get tackled, hold on to the ball, and your team has first-and-goal at about the 2, which isn't too shabby. No need to make a crazy lunge for the goal line and risk losing the ball. (Not unlike challenging the call when your player gets stopped short of the goal line and may or may not have been across. Why blow the challenge? Take first-and-goal from the 1 and punch it in!) Sure enough, that play is Easterbrook's first "Sour Play of the Week."

Posted by Carl at 04:53 PM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2005

The theme ingredient is buffalo

How some TV chefs, past and present, would fare on Iron Chef America:

Rachael Ray: Given a full hour, makes twice as many dishes as everyone else. Submits buffalo burgers, buffalo steak sandwich, spaghetti with buffalo meatballs, and buffalo tacos; suffers humiliating defeat after receiving zero points for originality.

Anthony Bourdain: Demands that a fifth of top-shelf tequila and a carton of cigarettes be included in the on-hand provisions. Storms off the set in an unexplained rage halfway through the cooking.

Emeril: All his dishes are available in his new book, Emeril on Iron Chef America, already in stores. Be sure to pick up some Emeril's Iron Chef Special Seasoning, which looks and tastes exactly like McCormick's Seasoned Salt only via amazing coincidence. After he shouts "BAM!" for the fifth time, Morimoto throws a knife at him.

Sandra Lee: Cooks for 20 minutes; offers barbecue buffalo sandwiches made with Kraft barbecue sauce, and buffalo loaf made with Lipton onion soup mix. First challenger in the history of Iron Chef to receive a negative score.

Sara Moulton: Actually makes some very nice dishes, but the judges and commentators don't notice because they've all fallen asleep.

Nigella Lawson: Suggestively licks sauce off a rib bone during tasting, but fails to win the competition because one of the guys from Queer Eye is on the panel.

Two Fat Ladies: Leave the studio to go buy the perfect buffalo meat from a lovely little shop in Llanfairgwychsire, and end up forfeiting the competition.

Jeff "the Frug" Smith: Talks incessantly and presents completed dishes while his assistant Craig does all the actual cooking.

Justin Wilson: Wins the competition going away despite spending half the session telling rambling jokes, then falling down drunk with ten minutes to go. Whoooeee sho' nuff be good I be tellin' you.

Julia Child: Makes Bobby Flay her bitch.

Posted by Carl at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

The best Houston has to offer

It's been far too long, but at last we have a new mascot photo.

Posted by Carl at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

Linking Fool Friday

We contemplated a sudden switch to a Spanish-language format at noon today, but decided to stick with same old links an' crap.

Those with Virginia ties may find MyDD's piece on Virginia politics in 2005 interesting.

By now everyone has heard that the search for WMD in Iraq has been called off. Oddly enough, that news hasn't gotten as much play as the CBS memo scandal fallout, which is kind of pathetic considering the relative costs of the two scandals. When some revisionist-history conservative inevitably tries to claim the WMD angle wasn't the reason for the war, whip out this handy list of quotes. Related: Kevin Drum has a good argument for why the CBS brouhaha is not evidence of "liberal bias."

Old news, but worth linking: What passes for compassionate conservatism among far-right Christian groups. Slacktivist has a great post reminding us that the Rwandan massacres were carried out by people calling themselves Christians, and we should not underestimate what certain extremist or even not-so-extremist groups of the faithful may be capable of.

From Digby: Republicans like to tell everyone hard work will pay off, while they simultaneously look to reduce or abolish the minimum wage, make it harder for people to afford health insurance, and otherwise keep the poor in crappy dead-end jobs from which it's nearly impossible to improve one's lot in life. They need a reminder that working super-hard for very little pay completely sucks, and always has, no matter how much they try to romanticize it.

Finally, I like Oliver's rules for 2005. I'm sick of trying to play nice when all that does is get us kicked in the ass.

Posted by Carl at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

Your 2004 bigfool.com year-end mix CD

The title is Centreville, QC. As always, representative of music I acquired last year, not necessarily stuff that came out last year. (Like the Gomez albums I've been meaning to pick up since forever and finally found used.)

The Roots “Star”
Doves “Hit the Ground Running”
The Fiery Furnaces “Tropical Iceland”
Broken Social Scene “Stars and Sons”
Broken Social Scene “7/4”
The Postal Service “The District Sleeps Alone”
Death Cab for Cutie “Expo ‘86”
Neko Case “Train From Kansas City”
The Finn Brothers “All God’s Children”
The Shins “Gone For Good”
Old Crow Medicine Show “Wagon Wheel”
Wilco “Handshake Drugs”
Gomez “Rhythm & Blues Alibi”
Cowboy Junkies “Helpless”
Iron & Wine “Passing Afternoon”

Posted by Carl at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

People making fun of me

Fortunately, I have a good sense of humor, and most of them are dopey anyway, or private jokes to that particular forum. Although it's predictable, I like: "Yes officer. That's a photo of the huge orange, hideous monstrosity that's been terrorising all the local children. There, stood next to the team mascot."

Posted by Carl at 04:24 PM | Comments (1)

Boo, RFK! Boooooooooooooo!

Word around town is that they'll be taking down RFK's Ring of Fame in favor of flashy electronic scoreboards (and no doubt some advertisements).

Well, that sucks.

Posted by Carl at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

What we need more of is science

Catching up on Wired mag articles dept.: I briefly mentioned that I am not a run-of-the-mill liberal when it comes to nuclear energy. I think the hysteria generated by the two famous nuke plant accidents has prevented the advancement of a valuable technology. And I'd much rather deal with a certain amount of nuclear waste, which could surely be deposited in a concentrated location in the desert somewhere (sorry, Nevadans), rather than the current system of coal-fired plants which belch filth everywhere. (For a more comprehensive discussion, see this semi-famous Mark Kleiman post.)

So I'm loving this report on Chinese pebble-bed reactors. Smaller, mass-producible, easier fuel and waste management, and meltdown-proof. And maybe even able to produce hydrogen on the side, for fueling all our hydrogen cars. Sounds pretty sweet; let's hope it pans out.

Posted by Carl at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)


When I was in high school, I loved Balt/Wash alternative radio powerhouse WHFS. Then they mainstreamed their format, canned all the DJs who played interesting music in favor of run-of-the-mill babbling idiots, and they began to suck. How the mighty have fallen: HFS has been changed to a Spanish-language format station. Guess former classic rock powerhouse DC101's attempt to sound just like HFS has finally paid off. (Thanks to Rachel for the tip.)

How I wish I could pick up WRNR, which was started by the exiled cool WHFS crowd, and still apparently plays cool music from time to time.

Posted by Carl at 03:31 PM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2005

Back up

Apologies for my over-the-weekend shutdown. I tire of deleting spam comments all day. I'll wager Mr./Ms. Phenteramine doesn't even notice that those comments are deleted almost as quickly as they're put up, and thus all that work is for nothing. I restarted the blog around 9:30 this morning, and it took maybe three hours for Phenteramine to come back. Ah well. A select few are ruining the freakin' Internet for the rest of us. I have turned off comments for all posts older than one month, so hopefully that will help a bit.

I have some items that should have been January 7's Linking Fool Friday, but I am swamped both personally and professionally right now, so I think I'll save them until the 14th.

Posted by Carl at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

Mandate Mandate MANDATE

Bush refuses to listen to bad news about Iraq. And a leaked White House memo proves the goal is to demolish Social Security, with no regard for the financial well-being of retirees.

Bush voters: buyer's remorse, yet?

The Rude Pundit (whose style I would emulate more if my mom didn't read this every so often) posts about defensive Bush supporters:

But, you know, there's something interesting that happens whenever you engage anyone who believes these things in a conversation: they get really, really defensive about Bush. And not in a coherent way. And not even in the knee-jerk-"I-support-my-President" kind of way. No, it's more of an "I don't wanna talk about it - shutupshutupshutup" kind of way, with ears covered and eyes clenched shut. In other words, they know. They know it's all been a huge failure. But they don't wanna know. And it's just easier to pretend that everything's fantabulous than face that horror, that abyss, of mistrust, of awareness of one's own complicity in the voting booth.

'Round here, we call these particular Republicans Type 4s. Given the ugly rumblings of fascism and violence that keep getting louder, you have to wonder just what it will take for these people to snap out of it.

Posted by Carl at 09:50 AM | Comments (2)

January 05, 2005

read the fine print

Blockbuster has a new campaign about "The End of Late Fees." Want to keep your DVD a couple extra days? No problem! Obviously, there has to be a catch. I was guessing that if you had anything out late, you wouldn't be allowed to rent anything else until you brought it back. But no, it's worse than that:

There is no additional rental charge if a member keeps a rental item beyond the pre-paid rental period. However, if a member chooses to keep a rental item more than a week after the end of the rental period, BLOCKBUSTER® will automatically convert the rental to a sale on the eighth day after the end of the rental period. BLOCKBUSTER will charge the membership account the selling price for the item in effect at the time of the rental...

So: keep it out more than a week late, we charge you full retail value. Oddly enough, Blockbuster does not mention this in their marketing campaign.

Posted by Carl at 03:46 PM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2005

Mascot news

World Junior Hockey Championship mascot changed:

Earlier this year, organizers of the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls announced that "Breezer" the polar bear would the tournament's official mascot.


But when Team USA played UND in the first exhibition hockey game of the World Junior tournament this week, Breezer was a no-show.

Instead, a human-sized bald eagle named "Icy" swooped in and claimed the spotlight.

Caitlin Lazaro, coordinator of corporate affairs for USA Hockey, said her organization made a decision in early November to scrap the polar bear idea in favor of a more American symbol.

Righty-o. It's an international tournament, see, so let's shove a more American symbol down their throats. USA! USA!

Posted by Carl at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2005

The shears!

The day of reckoning has come for Red Sox fans. Thanks to Otis for forwarding.

Posted by Carl at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)